Most everyone has a smartphone today, or at least a mobile phone. Buying any kind of electronic item online can be risky because you are buying it sight unseen and must trust the seller. eBay has a guarantee that will help you if you get scammed, but it is better not to have to go through the entire dispute process if you don't have to.
Locked vs. Unlocked Phones
The typical protocol for buying a smartphone is to go to your local cell phone store. It is convenient because buyers can preview different options, but it can be inconvenient if you don't want to be stuck in a contract. Most major carriers, like Verizon, lock you into a two-year contract. It can be expensive and restricting, because if another deal comes along, you may have to pay a penalty fee to get out of your current contract.
This is called buying a locked phone, a phone that has a SIM card programmed to only work with a specific carrier. The network, such as Verizon, AT&T, or Sprint, comes with a contract binding the customer to that particular network. Usually, the time frame is two years. It is how the network makes its money, through the invisible product of cell phone service.
An unlocked phone is one that is basically a free agent. It isn't associated with or bound to any specific provider. Unlocked phones can be used with most any carrier, which is why unlocked cell phones are sold on eBay. An unlocked phone works just the same as a locked phone. You can make calls, send texts, use apps, and surf the internet. It does not come with a contract, so you can choose whatever compatible phone carrier you wish to use.
Benefits of Buying Unlocked Cell Phones on eBay
eBay has thousands of models to choose from, including the newest technology as well as cell phones that are dated but good for people who just want something cheap. Believe it or not, there are people who just want a phone to be a phone and don't need apps, texting, or YouTube on their phone. The local cell phone store only has a limited selection.
If you have a phone with, for instance, Verizon service, and you travel out of the network, you may incur extra charges for communication, or you may not have service at all—not an ideal option if you are traveling on business and need to be able to communicate with colleagues or clients. Unlocked phones work with any network. Users can change GSM networks when desired. People who frequently travel love this option, because they can switch to another network when coverage is lacking in the current area.
Upfront costs may seem more expensive for an unlocked cell phone, because in today's world with all the promotions, a brand new phone as part of a plan seems so cheap. But remember, the main carriers are able to offer phones so cheaply because they will recover the cost through the two-year contract. Unlocked phones are cheaper over the life of the phone. There is no long-term contract, and the user can change carriers any time he wants. Or, if money is tight, you can use the unlocked phone with prepaid plans, which often have far cheaper rates.
Higher Resale Prices
If you are a meticulous person who takes care of things, you can get your money back out of an unlocked phone. Many people buy unlocked phones precisely because they know they'll want an upgrade when the next new model comes out, so they can just resell. Unlocked phones can sell for about 30 percent more than a locked phone. For example, if you are selling an iPhone 6 that is locked to Verizon, the only buyers that would be interested in it are Verizon subscribers. But, if you have an unlocked iPhone 6, you can sell it to anyone with any plan, and even in other countries. So, selling an unlocked phone gives you a much larger buying audience.
eBay stands behind everything sold on the site. If you don't get what you ordered, or have trouble with your seller, don't hesitate to open a case on eBay and ask them to step in.
Updated by Suzanne Wells.